Sacred Beasts are ancient animals who can practice the sacred arts. Like humans, they can advance to great power. In the Cradle series, a primary character is Orthos, a sacred turtle.
Three Types of Animals
Not all beasts are sacred on Cradle. Some animals are just beasts. Some are Dreadbeasts. A sacred beast is often an ancient animal. All sacred beasts can practice the Sacred Arts and advance to higher levels, albeit in its own way. Sacred beasts have a viable healthy spirit, and they leave a Remnant behind when they die. They are able to process vital aura and to cycle madra, powering up for forceful techniques, etc. Animals are just animals. They have no spirit. Dreadbeasts have a mangled, corrupted spirit that’s grown into the flesh. They leave no viable Remnant.
Eithan threw his arm across Lindon's shoulder in a fatherly gesture. “There's a lineage of sacred beasts, you may have heard of them, known as the Heavenly Sky Tigers. It's a bit much for a name, I know, but they're quite famous.” (Soulsmith, ch 13)
How Beasts Become Sacred
Sacred Beasts are ancient animals that have attained sacred status by living long enough in an aura-rich environment, absorbing enough of a particular vital aura from their surroundings to cycle madra and develop a spirit.
If a fox or a turtle survived their first century, they would absorb enough vital aura from the world around them to ascend into sacred beasts. These animals cycled madra, advanced in power, and left Remnants just as humans did. The oldest of them could even speak, and legends said some could take human forms. (Book 1, Unsouled, page 7)
There’s another way beasts become sacred, with a spirit, able to cycle madra. According to the author, a sacred beast is likely to give birth to a sacred beast.
Will Wight: I wouldn't say all, but in general yes. Snowfoxes from Sacred Valley started off as one fox that lived long enough to advance, but now it's a whole race of little snowfoxes that are sacred beasts from birth
Questioner: If humans are born with pure cores, what are sacred beasts born with?
Will Wight: If you're born a sacred beast, you are born with whatever madra your species has. You just have that naturally. So you're always born with aspected madra. So it depends on what you are. If you're not born a sacred beast, if you're just born a regular animal, you absorb ambient aura over time and slowly develop aspected madra. But since of course there is no pure aura, you can never develop pure madra. (https://abidanarchive.com/events/20/#e1418)
How Sacred Beasts Advance
Sacred beasts can and do advance in the sacred arts. Their advancement differs from how humans advance. Orthos tells Lindon how advancing to Underlord differs:
Sacred beasts do not have to discover who we are. We have to choose.... what to become ... a dragon or a turtle or even a man. ..Traditionally, this involves a journey alongside others making the same choice. But I am the only one.” (Underlord, ch 7)
Author Will Wight also offer this info on his website:
Questioner (paraphrased): How do Sacred Beast's advance and when do they learn to shapeshift?
Will Wight (paraphrased): Sacred beasts advance differently than sacred artists. Notably in their interactions with soulfire. So at the Lord realm, they start getting limited shape-shifting abilities, which get less limited as they advance (Abidan Archives)
The Beast King
- Not a beast. Not a king. A human being, ancient, beloved of the sacred beasts of the Wasteland.
- The Beast King is a Herald. This old man of the desert defends the Wastelands from invading gold dragons
- The Herald / Beast King is friends with sacred beasts everywhere, but especially at home in the Wasteland, near the Blackflame Empire. He lives among the sacred beasts, like the powerful and immense Vastwood Mammoth.
Known Sacred Beasts
- Elder Whisper: An ancient white five-tailed snowfox in Sacred Valley. He developed the Path employing purplish-white Fox Fire. He is associated with the Wei Clan. He trusts Lindon with a secret about the Labyrinth and Subject One (see books 9 & 10).
- Orthos: A huge sacred turtle, Orthos advances to Lord level while he’s in Sacred Valley. He lived for some years in Serpent’s Grave in the Blackflame Empire. He follows the same dragon path as Lindon, the Path of Black Flame, and identifies as a Black Dragon-Turtle.
- Vastwood Mammoth, allied with The Beast King. On the crumbling island Ghostwater, the Beast King sent his Vastwood Mammoth with Ziel to rescue some Golds unfairly attacked by a dragon Underlady:
Another powerful soul was unveiled somewhere on the island. Yerin couldn’t put a name to its advancement level, but it felt impossibly ancient. Then the mammoth rose over the trees and raised its trunk, trumpeting into the sky. She could see it mostly as a pile of fur in the distance; it looked like a mountain’s pet dog.
The stranger pointed in that direction. “My friend was listening. He’s not happy.” (Ghostwater, chapter 16)
Several sacred beasts in the Cradle series have advanced to Monarch level. Reigan Shen is a sacred lion with a taste for wine. He advanced to the level of Monarch and rules the Rosegold Continent. Seshethkunaaz is a sacred dragon who shape-changes to a human boy. He advanced to Monarch level and rules over the Eastern Ashwind Continent.
Bond / Contract With
Sacred Beasts can bond or contact with a sacred artist. This is a soul-deep, spiritual bond that also allows for shared strength and skill, to some limited extent.
When Lindon contracted with the sacred turtle Orthos his eyes took on a red-black color similar to the turtle’s (Blackflame). When he contracted with Little Blue, his eyes took on a crystal blue hue (Wintersteel). Lil Blue is a nature-spirit-being, not the same as a sacred beast. According to Author Will Wight: “The eye color thing is one of the hallmarks of being contracted to a sacred beast. To take on the eyes of a sacred beast. So, that's kind of the general shorthand for 'this person has a beast contract'. That is normally how it works. I'm sure there are some exceptions, but generally, that is the rule….. (https://abidanarchive.com/events/14/#e1187)
Reasons for Bonding
Questioner: How common is it on Cradle for sacred artist to adopt Sacred Beasts or remnants as partners?
Will Wight: It depends. So one of the things that doesn't get brought up in the books a lot, because it's a, you know, magical Shonen fighting series, a lot of the people, a lot of the sacred artists on Cradle, don't fight a lot. . . .So among those people, contracting with sacred beasts or spirits is more common, because you get a sudden boost of power, or alternatively, this happens a lot, you bond with a sacred beast when you are both very young. So you grow up together. So you get a partner and someone who is with you your whole journey. Or if they are more advanced than you are, you get a sudden surge of power without having to fight for it. So therefore sacred beast contracts are often for utility, rather than cultivation. (https://abidanarchive.com/events/20/#e1452)
Eating Sacred Meat & Plants
This nourishing, revitalizing, and empowering food comes from farm, forest, or pond-raised sacred plants and beasts, usually. It’s very expensive. It’s really only meant for Underlords and above, who can process it with soulfire. It’s not taken from a sentient being. If the sacred beast is sentient, eating it is tantamount to cannibalism.
His Iron body should have been pulling from his spirit to heal him, but instead, it was feeding on the power from the sacred beast's meat. Now he focused on the cycling process eagerly. .. “If you did nothing but gorge yourself on those Carp for the next month or two, you'd have the strength of a lion and the endurance of an ox.” He barked out a laugh. . .Dross added, “That is, if you survived. And if there were no crippling deformities caused by uncontrollable growth of your muscles and organs. Which, none so far so...yay! -Ghostwater, ch 8
Sacred artists can eat meat from non-sentient sacred beasts to enhance their strength. This might be done before or after a battle, or to restore the body after injury. Wealthy, high-level Lords and Monarchs might eat it daily. “Gold dragons eat meat of this quality from the moment they hatch.” (Ghostwater, ch 8). In the Ghostwater (Pocket World), Lindon and Orthos eat Silverfang Carp to promote vitality and muscle growth, but at first, it’s too much for Lindon and he passes out. (Ghostwater, ch 8). They also ate sea drake
Orthos. . .continued chuckling as he walked past the body of the Diamondscale Sea Drake, taking a bite of its meat as he passed. (Ghostwater chapter 11)
After Yerin’s lifeline is cut short (in book 6, Underlord), Eithan feeds her a variety of spiritually rich food:
He could sense the spiritual weight of the food himself: slices of meat rich with strengthening blood aura, crystalline vegetables woven with healing strands of life, shining fruits that nourished the soul, jugs that emanated the feel of elixirs.. .“The meat increases the density of blood aura, strengthening the body. The vegetables cleanse the body, the fruits cleanse and restore the spirit, and also there's some rice in there. Rice is good for you. The pill is a Flowering Heart pill, and the bottle contains a Lifeseed Elixir. This will give you more life and blood aura than any single human body could possibly hold.”(Underlord, ch 11).